Home > Faculty > Julia Herschensohn
PhD. 1976, University of Washington
A major enterprise of generative linguistics is the determination of how language acquisition is accomplished, how a young child achieves phonological and syntactic mastery of a language to which she has imperfect input, the less than complete corpus to which she is exposed. The current generative model holds that the grammar of a particular language is learnable because it has a core, Universal Grammar (UG), comprising principles that are invariant across languages, and parameters whose differing values permit an explanation of variation from language to language. In my work I examine second language (L2) acquisition, arguing that it is not simply learning through communicative experience, but rather the resetting of parameters and transfer of already acquired grammatical principles within the lexicon of the new language.
Most significant recent contributions
To appear (co-edited with Martha Young-Scholten). Cambridge Handbook on Second Language Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
2011 (edited). Romance Linguistics 2010: Selected proceedings of the 40th Symposium on Romance Languages. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.
2011 (co-edited with Darren Tanner). Proceedings of the 11th GASLA Conference. Somerville MA: Cascadilla Press.
2007. Language Development and Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
2000. The Second Time Around: Minimalism and L2 acquisition. Philadelphia / Amsterdam: John Benjamins [287 pp.].
1996. Case Suspension and Binary Complement Structure in French. Philadelphia / Amsterdam: John Benjamins [200 pp.].
Articles in Refereed Journals:
To appear (co-authored with Nuria Sagarra). Processing of gender and number agreement in late Spanish bilinguals. International Journal of Bilingualism.
2011. (co-authored with Nuria Sagarra). Proficiency and animacy effects on L2 gender agreement processes during comprehension. Language Learning 61: 80-116.
2010 (co-authored with Nuria Sagarra). The Role of proficiency and working memory in gender and number agreement in L1 and L2 Spanish. Lingua 120: 2022-2039.
2009. Fundamental and gradient differences in language development. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 31: 259-289.
2009. (co-authored with Deborah Arteaga). Tense and Verb Raising in advanced L2 French. Journal of French Language Studies 19: 291-318.
2008. (with Lee Osterhout, A. Poliakov,, Kayo Inoue, Judith McLaughlin, G. Valentine, Ilona Pitkanen, Cheryl Frenck-Mestre). Second-language learning and changes in the brain. Journal of Neurolinguistics 21: 509-521.
2007. (co-authored with Deborah Arteaga). Marquage grammatical des syntagmes verbaux et nominaux chez un apprenant avancé. AILE 25: 159-178.
2006. Français langue seconde: From functional categories to functionalist variation. Second Language Research 22: 95-113.
2005. (with Jeff Stevenson and Jeremy Waltmunson). Children's acquisition of L2 Spanish morphosyntax in an immersion setting. International Review of Applied Linguistics 43: 193-217.
I have chosen these publications because they reflect my current research interests and contributions, and they also display the range of my work in the areas of generative syntax, second language acquisition theory, and applied linguistics. My main areas of specialization are theoretical syntax and nonnative language learning, linked in my current research dealing with L2 acquisition. Most recently, I have (co)-edited three books dealing with Romance linguistics and second language acquisition.
My recent articles explore the role of Universal Grammar and the nature of morphology learning in second language acquisition, through an examination of adult and child L2 French and Spanish learners. These articles expand the idea that second language acquisition may draw on aspects of UG, and that L2A is accomplished through the progressive mastery of morpho-lexical constructions and with the use of a coalition of resources (e.g. UG constraints, cognitive learning strategies). I have collaborated with Cheryl Frenck-Mestre and Nuria Sagarra in studies of French and Spanish gender acquisition and processing by Anglophone learners without gender in their native language. I have also contributed to work by my colleague Lee Osterhout using ERPs to study L2 acquisition of French. My ongoing research with colleague Deborah Arteaga examines longitudinal data of three advanced French L2 learners to ascertain development of L2 competence, particularly acquisition of verbal and nominal inflection, verb raising, and object clitics. We have also collaborated on several articles dealing with the diachronic development and synchronic analysis of Old French.
Language Development and Age examines the question of whether there is a critical period for language acquisition, demonstrating that first language (L1) is largely susceptible to age constraints, whereas second language is indirectly so affected. L1 is not thoroughly acquired if age of onset passes seven years and shows major deficits past age twelve. L2 acquisition also shows age effects, but with a range of individual differences. The competence of expert adult learners, the unequal achievements of child L2 learners, and the lack of consistent empirical evidence for a maturational cutoff, all cast doubt on a critical period for L2A. Furthermore, the reasons for the deterioration of acquisition potential are only partly maturational, since experience with the native tongue shapes the neural networks of the brain dedicated to language.
In The Second Time Around: Minimalism and L2 Acquisition, I argue that second language acquisition is not totally distinct from first language acquisition, but rather is a relearning of language, accomplished through the mastery of morphological features and their syntactic connection to functional categories. My 1996 book Case Suspension and Binary Complement Structure in French, a study in theoretical syntax, argues that the dual nature of objective case in French correlates with a parallel limit on argument (complement) projection, using non-thematic subject constructions as the main area of investigation.
My current work is extending the work on language processing and age effects by examining how monolinguals and bilinguals (child and adult learners) understand and produce the grammatical aspects of speech such as agreement, displacement and coreference.
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